Etiquette for Partner Dancing

By request, these are Smoothstyle’s top tips for how to behave when dancing:


  1. Brush your teeth before you begin class or dancing and have breath mints or gum on hand just in case.
  2. Wear deoderant and clean clothing. Most body odor smell comes from unclean clothing – bacteria builds up in the material and emits odour. By the way, by “clean” we me freshly laundered – unworn clothes that have been in a drawer or closet for a few months can smell, even if you haven’t worn them.
  3. If you sweat, bring a towel and shirts/t-shirts to change into throughout the night. It’s perfectly normal to change your shirt one or more times during a night of dancing. It is very unpleasant to dance with someone soaked in sweat.


  1. Teachers teach and students do not. Do not attempt to instruct or “help” if you are a student in class. Smoothstyle usually has trained assistants/helpers in workshops so if the teacher is too busy to help with an individual question, another instructor is likely around to help if you ask.
  2. Don’t talk/converse while the instructor(s) are talking.
  3. Strive to do what the instructors are asking of you even if you have a different way of doing things yourself. For the period of the class, simply try it the way that’s being taught. It will expand your possibilities or may help you better understand your own preferences.


  1. Dancing should not cause pain or injury. Be aware of the people and the space around you and modify your dance (e.g. size of steps, use of arms, size of slot) based on the room actually available on the dance floor.
  2. Do not instruct or “help” on the social dance floor. Just dance, and smile.
  3. If you want feedback on your dancing, ask a partner if they would be willing to give you some after a dance, or seek out an instructor.
  4. If you want to GIVE feedback on someone else’s dancing, don’t. Consult an instructor first, or ask your dance partner a blameless question such as: “Hey, do you mind if I try this move on you a few more times? I’m trying to get it right.” the, rather than saying, “When I do this you’re supposed to do that,” instead try: “I’m trying to get you to go over here – why do you think it’s not working?”
  5. Ask everyone to dance – the swing-dance community is very contemporary and very social. Women and newcomers do not wait to be asked to dance – everyone asks and everyone dances.
  6. Declining a dance can be tricky but there are a few rules of etiquette to help. First, if you decline a dance because you are taking a break or don’t like the song etc., you should sit out that entire song (“I’m sorry, I just declined a dance to take a break – I’ll get you for a dance later on.”). If you decline and tell the person you will get them for a dance later then you must ask them to dance later. If you are declining because you do not want to dance with the person ever, simply say “No thank you”.
  7. Being declined. It can hurt, but try not to take it personally. A person may decline a dance with you for any number of reasons and does not owe you a reason. If the same person declines you more than a few times, it’s probably a good idea to move on. Focus your energy on the many people who you CAN dance with, not on the few who won’t.
  8. When in doubt, ask the host for advice or help with social situations.
  9. If you feel pain, hurt yourself, or become injured, stop dancing. Do not place blame. Say “I’m sorry, that last move really hurt. I need to stop.” Leave the dance floor with your partner and attend to the injury. Whether you’re the injured party or the inadvertent perpetrator, don’t leave you partner alone on the dance floor – work together. Talk to the instructor or host about what happened, to ensure that you get proper medical attention and/or to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future.
  10. If you are responsible for hurting/injuring a partner, or tearing their clothing, or some other similar accident, apologize first – one sincere and immediate apology goes a long way. Next, stay with that person to ensure they get help they need. Offer to pay for any necessary services if the error was clearly your fault.

You can download our Essential Guide to Partner-Dance Etiquette (PDF) here.

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